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Googles Project Fi Can be Awesome but it’s been a little Google-ized

Googles Project Fi – The Sign up Process

I decided it was time to upgrade my phone.  The screen on my Samsung Galaxy Note 4 has a crack across the top corner and I’m getting pretty tired of the slowdowns I keep experiencing from the Samsung TouchWiz interface.  I love Android but I want a pure Android experience so I’ve decided to choose the Google Nexus brand of phones.  They are pure Android and the latest batch are some of the most powerful Android devices you can buy.

In the process of choosing a Google Nexus device, I also decided that I’m going to give Googles Project Fi Cell Service a chance.  Project Fi, for those who don’t already know, is Googles own cell phone service that works in a slightly different and much more simplistic manner to other cellphone providers.

Project Fi uses T-Mobile and Sprint networks for its mobile networks access.  The difference is Project Fi also uses Wi-Fi whenever it can find a Wi-Fi network to use.  While you move around, your phone will be looking for approved open Wi-Fi networks to connect to, and when it can’t find an approved open WiFi network it will try to connect to the strongest mobile service it can find choosing between T-Mobile or Sprint.

Coverage should be pretty good with access to both T-Mobile and Sprint networks.  Here’s the coverage map as of December 10th 2015 and you can explore it yourself at https://fi.google.com/coverage.

 

 

The other nice way Project Fi makes things simple is their pricing structure.  You have a $20 base cost which provides unlimited talk and text and then you pay $10 for each gigabyte of data you use.  You choose your data level, say $20 for 2GB of data, pre pay each month and if you don’t use the data you’ve paid for, Google actually gives you your money back.  So it boils down to you only pay for the data you use.  That’s it. It’s about as simple as it gets.  Use more data and they charge you more for it, but at the exact same rate, use less and they give you money back.  The advantage is most of your connection is made through Wi-Fi, so any data used while connected to Wi-Fi is free, which is most of the time.

So there’s your quick overview of Project Fi. The rest of this article is my short Project Fi diary.  I’m documenting my experience from start to finish to see how well Google have implemented Project Fi.

Day 1 – Ordering

I decided I was going to purchase a Google Nexus 6P and was originally going to purchase through the Google Play Store.  When I decided I was going to give Project Fi and test, I also found that you can purchase the devices through Project Fi so everything would come together.

Sign up is available through an invitation system currently.  You have to go and request and invite at https://fi.google.com and then wait for Google to approve you.  My invitation took three days.  I submitted my application on December 5th 2015 and received my invite on December 8th 29105.

The same day I received my invite, I logged into Project Fi and started the sign up process.  From choosing the number I wanted to switch over, and then selecting the device I wanted to order.  When selecting my device, I was surprised that any kind of Device Protection option was available, instead just a notice popped up stating that device protection would be available in the future and asking me if I wanted to be notified once it was available.  This was a complete surprise as during my research process of the Nexus phones I was happy to see the “Protect Your Device” option when purchasing.

The help screen states:

Your Nexus phone comes with a 1-year manufacturer’s warranty. With Nexus Protect, your phone gets an additional year of coverage for mechanical breakdown and 2 years of protection from accidental damage.

For the Nexus 6P this is a one-time fee of $89 and is subject to a $79 deductible and up to 2 incidents of accidental damage coverage for 2 years.

So why have Google decided not to provide this option when you purchase your device through Project Fi!  It’s seems very strange that device protection is missing when I could have purchased the Nexus 6P from the google Store with device protection and then simply ordered the Project Fi service and SIM card through Project Fi.  Strike One Google!

SO, everything ordered through Project Fi I proceeded to patiently wait for my device to ship. Bear in mind that everywhere on the Google stores, it stated that the Nexus 6P was in stock and would ship in 1 to 2 business days.  HAHA. Wrong!  Once I’d placed the order, I received my receipt which stated:

“Estimated delivery date: December 15 – 16, 2015”

What!!!  I wasn’t happy with what I read so I went back online to chat to one of the support people.  Chat support was simple and I was in an online conversation with a person in less than a minute.  I was told that due to the demand and the holidays they had stock in the distribution centers but it wasn’t ready to ship yet and had to be prepared.  When I ordered, instead of the free shipping, I chose the 2-day delivery method to get the device a little quicker.  As my device wasn’t due to ship for another week, I requested the shipping be changed to the FREE shipping instead.  Nope, it can’t be changed once the order has been placed.  The only way to change the shipping was to cancel the order and start a new one.  I’m sorry, aren’t we in the 12st century now.  Systems are easily changed and someone somewhere has access to the order details.  Why did they not think to provide the support staff with access to change the order information without having to cancel it.  She then tried to apply a credit to my account to cover the shipping costs and this failed.  The system wouldn’t allow a credit to be applied prior to the Project Fi account being activated.  None of this is a big deal, but it’s a consistent result from Google.  Google never seems to get things polished.  I think it’s the old created by geeks syndrome.  Everything is always so complicated.  Anyway, she made a note on my account and said that once the service was activated I should call back and they will then add a credit to my account for the shipping. Strike Two Google!

December 9th, the day after my order

I was checking my bank account balance and depositing checks when I saw a charge from Google.

CHECKCARD GOOGLE *Devices GOOGLE.COM/CH CA ON 12/08

I also noticed that it was submitted on Dec 8th, the day I placed my order.  You may think, what’s wrong with that!  The issue with that is the information presented on the screen when I placed the order and also stated in the receipt I received.  They both stated…

 

 

See that line above “You will not be charged until your order has shipped”.  At first, this raised my hopes that maybe my device was going to ship early.  I logged back into my order and the date still indicated an expected ship date of DECEMBER 15 – 16, 2015.  Time to chat to a support person again and see why they have already charged my account.  Again, a very quick response and very polite person on the other end of the chat window stating they didn’t know why.  They said…

This may because you will be getting a tracking number in the next 2 days since shipping take 1 to 2 business days for the order to process

Which still does not agree with their statement of “You will not be charged until your order has shipped”.  The work SHIPPED on the end of this statement does not indicate any kind of prepayment when the order starts to be processed by the warehouse.  Strike Three Google!

Again, this really is not a show stopper of any kind but for a company as big and lucrative as Google, these types of silly little mistakes should not happen.  It really makes you feel uncomfortable, as if you’re working with a couple of guys in a garage somewhere who create amazing technology but really don’t have the business know how to implement it properly.

This is the company who we are expected to trust our lives with in self driving vehicles.  Doesn’t exactly give you the warm fuzzies 🙂

So here we are, at day three of my ordering process, waiting patiently for my device to ship.  Hopefully I’ll get time to give you more updates on my Project Fi experience once everything arrives.

If you want more information on Google’s Project Fi, or want to request an invite for yourself, you can head over to the project Fi website at http://fi.google.com/

About Simon Walker

I was an IT consultant for 20 years and ran my own web design and development company for an additional 3 years. I have been involved with technology from birth. OK, that maybe an exaggeration, but it sure is a long time. I'm also an avid Home Theater geek and self appointed installer for friends and relatives. My first serious modding of Smart-Phones started with my T-Mobile WING and now Android devices. I'm also a bit of a photographer, although Android has kind of taken over my life and photography has taken a back seat.